New Decatur market’s success depends on the locals

The food town’s farmers market has new operators. Now it needs more shoppers.

Elizabeth Johnston/Community Farmers Markets

If there were ever a community that ought to have a big, bustling farmers market, it is Decatur. After all, this is a town filled with granola-crunching college professors, health-happy researchers from nearby Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, artists and authors, aging hippies and younger hipsters—all who happen to love their arugula. Decatur’s twice-a-week market should be crammed with NPR tote-bag carrying, Teva-and-black-sock wearing, anti-establishment consumers loading up on pesticide-free produce and humanely raised meat while they chat with neighbors about President Obama’s recent visit or the latest meeting of the Stop Wal-Mart club. Instead, Decatur’s farmers market, which was one of the first in the area, has been surpassed by many newer markets—both in terms of the number of vendors and the number of regular shoppers.

I offer this observation out of love. I’ve lived in Decatur since I moved to Georgia in 1994 (consider me a member of the “aging hippie” category), and I’m an enthusiastic supporter of our little market. But I want a bigger, better farmers market.

I may soon get my wish. Until now, Decatur Farmers Market has been operated as a side project by devoted volunteers and part-time employees. They worked hard, but there’s only so much they could do without proper resources. Last weekend, Community Farmers Markets, the nonprofit group that runs East Atlanta Village and Grant Park farmers markets, assumed operation of Decatur Farmers Market with a “soft” (and wet) opening. Today and Saturday, the new management will become more public.

New vendors have already started coming to the market, and today their ranks continue to grow. In addition to loyal, long-time vendors such as Greenleaf Farms, Zocalo Salsas, Stone Mountain Herbs, and Besmaid Garden Essentials, today you’ll find Laughing Rabbit Farm, Mountain Earth Farm, Watsonia Farms, S & J Wood-fired Pizza, Doggy Dogg ATL, and King of Pops. On Saturdays, all the new farms will be back, plus Scharko Farms.

“There will be more vendors coming, especially at the Saturday market,” says Katie Hayes, director of Community Farmers Markets and acting market manager. “The No. 1 thing we wanted to do was get more farmers.” Also scheduled for upcoming Saturday markets: coffee. It’s not grown locally, but it is roasted locally, and it sure makes an early morning shopping trip more pleasant.

Now, Decatur and nearby DeKalb County residents need to do their part. New vendors won’t stay if they don’t sell enough goods, week after week, to make the market worth their effort. Lovers of local food can do their part by bringing a neighbor or friend to the market with them. Through the My Market Club campaign, both the host and the newbie get goodies. As if locally produced food weren’t enough of a treat in itself.

The Wednesday afternoon Decatur Farmers Market is held year-round at 163 Clairmont Ave., at the corner of Commerce Avenue and Church Street. Hours today are 4 to 7. The Saturday morning Decatur Farmers Market is held year-round at the corner of N. McDonough and Trinity streets, across from the Chic-fil-A. Its hours are 9 to noon.